Left In Lowell

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March 9, 2009

Worst. Self Promoter. Ever.

by at 8:14 am.

If you caught WCAP this morning from about 7:20 to 8pm, you heard myself and Shawn of Dracut Forum having a friendly debate on the air. It was a lot of fun. Shawn and I even found areas of common ground (I think Teddy Panos almost had a heart attack!) and hashed out a lot of local, state, and national issues from our respective points of view.

Once again I failed to put up a post to mention it and let you all know ahead of time. In my defense, our water heater finally gave out this weekend and I was running around dealing with that. (It’s been a brutal winter for house appliance and car repair costs!)

Anyway, every Monday morning you’ll probably find one of us, myself or Mimi, in the blogger’s timeslot between 7 and 8am, so tune in every week! Next week you’ll hear from Mimi, and I’ll be back in two weeks.

LiL - Affecting National Policy on Coins?

by at 7:46 am.

Jackie wrote about the Globe article which mentioned that in the Governor’s public online voting about the new Massachusetts coin, the Lowell National Parks make it to second place on the list of possible historic and natural treasures to be depicted on the coin.

Now, the LNHP was behind the Gloucester’s Fisherman’s Memorial by a very large margin. However, if you recall, I linked to and wrote about the voting and encouraged people to show some hometown pride and vote for our own National Park.

I would love to see the list of referring URLs on that particular page! Is this evidence of LiL’s burgeoning ability to (almost) affect the outcome of inconsequential decisions by the federal government? ;)

March 8, 2009

Because of Her…Lowell Women’s Week Award Recipients

by at 8:06 pm.

Lowell Women’s Week will come to an end tomorrow with the Breakfast Celebration that was rescheduled from last Monday due to a snow storm.

The week-long series of event, which included Lectures, films, museum tours, panel discussion, workshop, will culminate with the presentation of the Because of Her Award which “recognizes women who demonstrate a strong commitment to their community through their courage, generosity, compassion, and activism.”

This year three women will be honored:

Gladys Picanso is 90 yrs old and is recognized for her work with the Portugese community over the past 50 yrs. Picanso helped many immigrant families transition from Portugal to the US.

Sandra Creamer is a nurse at Saints Medical Center. About 13 years ago, she became involved in the Chernobyl Children’s Project. She standardized the treatment for approx. 50 children, that visit the US each year to treat the lasting effects of the Chernobyl Nuclear accident. Recently Sandra started the SPINDLE fund, which helps cancer patients at SMC w/ everything from Rx costs, co-pays, groceries and wigs, for those going through cancer treatments.

And our own Kristin Ross-Sitcawich. In addition to her witty comments on LiL, Kristin or K-R-S’s day job is as Program Director at a homeless shelter in Lowell. Everyday she sees to it that her clients, the needest in our society, get excellent quality of care, services while also holding clients accountable for their actions.

As we know she is a political advocate defending the environment and citizens’ rights. She is also a keep-the-canals-clean fanatic. She is on the Board of Canal CleanWaters and chaired their last fundraiser.

Her professional career has made acutely aware of the plight of the homeless. That is why Kristen served as Chairperson of the new Subcommittee to Save Winter Protocol for the LTLC Shelter so that the 30-40 street homeless do not freeze to death this winter. This is a natural extension of her role as chairperson of the Hunger/Homeless Commission. As if that is not enough to make one tired just to think about it, she is an active board member of both Lowell Community Health Center and the Wish Project Furniture Bank

Congratulations to the award recipients.

No, no to nano?

by at 7:00 am.

On Friday, when I read on the Globe’s web site that “the University of Massachusetts Lowell is scuttling plans” to build the $90 million science center, because the University’s building authority cannot borrow the necessary $35 million in this bond market, I was both surprised and disappointed. I thought this was a done deal and construction had begun. Little do I know! I should pay attention.

Back in April 2007 when Governor Deval Patrick came to the school to deliver the down payment on the construction of the technical center, Lynne’s post on the visit and press conference reflected the optimism that we all felt:

The new nanotech building will bring together many disciplines, said MA University system president Jack Wilson. Bio and nano manufacturing will be incubated in the new labs. State Senator Panagiotakos spoke to the efforts that brought the University its funding for this project - 4-5 years of putting together the proposals and getting colleagues’ support. …bringing education, economic development, and job creation together for the greater good, not just in Lowell, but statewide, nationally, and even internationally, as the Senator said.

I heard State Senator Steve Panagiatakos on Warren Shaw’s radio show yesterday. He reiterated what he said to Matt Murphy :

’The markets have made it hard to borrow the total amount, but I don’t think it’s enough to walk away from the project at all, and I’m very disappointed in the remarks,’ Panagiotakos said. ‘On our end, we have never given up on this project and we won’t. It’s too important to the region for sustainable economic development.’

The Senator was not pleased with the sequence of events and even cautioned that if the University does not move forward with the construction, they will have to return the $10 Million to the State. I think that is going to be hard to do; Murphy reports that the money was given for design and permits. I would think that in 2 years a lot of that money has been used for its intended purpose.

All this begs the question, how are you going to afford to build a practice rink, fix the Arena and subsidize its operating costs if you cannot build a science center which is essential to your mission. My suggestion would be for the Lowell City Council to begin formulating Plan B for the Tsongas Arena. I still do not see how the University is going to come up with the funds to make this happen.

School Committee 03.04.09

by at 6:19 am.

We should be paying attention to the Lowell School Committee. Last week’s Jenn Myers’ article on a “debate regarding the role and authority of School Committee” caught my attention. Apparently, the headmaster at the Lowell High told a school committee person that she could not talk to his staff without him being present. F.O.B.s are everywhere! You need to watch this (20 minute) video. It made me cringe.

As I said, not enough people are paying attention to this body; there was a rudeness in the discussion which is inappropriate for a governing body and especially from one that should serve as a role model to children.

March 7, 2009

The PDA Ate My Patrick-Transit Post!

by at 12:32 am.

Well, earlier I had a short-ish post almost fully written about today’s public meeting with Governor Patrick on his transportation reforms and revenue proposal, but the PDA ate my text. Suffice it to say that it was pithy and informative and all that. :) I’ll try to recreate my thoughts as best I can post-3-hour-movie at quarter to midnight. (I’m also hoping to get some - really crappy quality - video up sometime tomorrow.)

First, I wanted to say that it is good to see Patrick again coming back to these local open forums to talk about a major proposal and to hear feedback. Connecting to people is one of his strong suits and leadership is something we in the Commonwealth, battered by poor economic news, really need. Thanks to the Governor and his staff for doing these statewide meetings.

(Update - Jackie was there, too, and posted her thoughts.)

(more…)

March 6, 2009

Watchmen: Quick Review (No Spoilers!)

by at 11:34 pm.

This week was the debut in theaters of Watchmen, the film adaptation of the 1986-87 comic graphic novel, and we headed out to see it tonight.

For those not a fan of the comic, or who have never read it, it’s an dark alternate-80s world inhabited by vigilantes in masks - all just normal people who know how to fight, except for one, Doctor Manhattan, who is practically omnipotent. Ostensibly, it’s a murder mystery, as the main characters try to find out who killed one of their own.

But Watchmen is so much deeper than that, and in reality, you could read the graphic novel several times and still not reach all the subtleties therein.

Our general consensus (the Mr.’s and mine) is that it was a pretty damn good adaptation of this super-complex story. While a lot has been left out by necessity, they managed to portray most of the larger themes. As for the ending, which I won’t tell you, but which is well known and publicized to be a major deviation from the comic, it is a very interesting choice and works superbly for the story. (Mr. Lynne says it’s even better than the novel version, though I pointed out that there are story elements in the novel that make the ending in it work for it. We agreed that perhaps each ending works for each version of the story.)

The Mr. mildly complained that the acting could have been better, but the actors playing the Comedian, Rorschach, and Doctor Manhattan did really well (Rorschach creeped the hell out of me, as well he should - he delivers some of the best lines in the book or film), and the other actors weren’t bad, just not as good as they could have been. All in all, whether you’ve read and liked the graphic novel or not, you should see this flick, and while it’s in the theaters, for full impact. You should also consider reading the novel if you have not.

Just fair warning - there are some pretty graphic (in the hide-your-face sense) scenes in the film. Having read the comic a few times, I knew just where to turn my head, but it’s pretty gritty.

As for me, I expect to see it a few more times to catch elements I missed the first time around. A good fan should do at least that much!

March 5, 2009

Patrick in Lowell Tomorrow: On Transit

by at 4:46 pm.

Gov. Patrick is stopping in Lowell tomorrow for his transit reform listening tour. He’ll be at the Pollard Library from11:30 – 1 pm.

Update - what in the bleeping heck is that character standing in for a dash up there?? I posted this from the hair dresser’s on the PDA and so I just noticed it now while reading comments and such. I won’t correct it, if only because I find it interesting, and doubt I could recreate it. It kinda creeps me out! Mystery icon. Or am I the only one seeing it? It looks like a box with two zeros over “96″ inside it. Please tell me I am not crazy!

Can’t Manage the Lottery, Now Wants to Be Governor??

by at 10:36 am.

Via Dick Howe’s blog, a report from the Globe that Treasurer Tim Cahill is considering a run against Governor Patrick. Of course, he’s floating the idea balloon this early in order to assess interest like all pols, but the report says that he’s also thinking he’d run as an independent to avoid going against Patrick in a primary, where he’d be shellacked, in favor of being shellacked in the general. Indys don’t win many elections.

This, from the spendthrift whose tender ministry of the lottery has put revenues for cities and towns in jeopardy during this downturn? I am no big fan of the lottery, which besides being a tax on stupid people, is a tax on desperate people looking for hope, but:

State Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill often says that the Massachusetts Lottery has enjoyed unprecedented growth under his leadership. But a review of lottery records shows that exploding administrative costs at the agency have soaked up a large portion of the new revenue, limiting the amount it shares with Massachusetts cities and towns.

Since Cahill took over five years ago, administrative spending has ballooned by nearly 50 percent, with higher costs for advertising, telephones, computers, and lottery ticket printing, including outside contracts signed with some of the treasurer’s campaign contributors.

Yeah, that doesn’t look like typical Beacon Hill culture, there. The lottery for Cahill has been a great way to secure loyalties from employees and campaign contributers alike. Like this:

On Cahill’s watch, the lottery increased its ranks of employees by nearly 10 percent. It bought 233 cellphones and BlackBerries for employees. It replaced most of its fleet of take-home vehicles for employees, spending $1.25 million to buy 73 new vans, crossover wagons, cars, and a Jeep in the last two years alone.

The lottery also agreed to a more costly lease to pay for $1.3 million in renovations at its Braintree headquarters, including a slick upgrade of the lobby. Visitors can now watch Keno and Mass Millions advertisements on two large flat-screen televisions as they lounge on lime-green art deco couches while a receptionist works under the glow of blue glass pendant lamps.

The HQ, Cahill claims, was redecorated to “make it ‘more enticing’ for visitors and winning ticket holders who come in to claim their money.” Um, hi, those people just won millions, I think that’s enticement enough to come pick up their money. And most of the growth in the lottery was and is eaten up by the burgeoning administrative overhead.

Then there’s his (ruled illegal) plan to privatize the lottery, and his even stupider plan for ugly warehouses of slot machines (hey, they can be “quickly erected”!)

So why, exactly, would we want to put him in the top executive office in the state, where he could work the same magic of cronyism and dumb ideas that benefit his donors (which include gambling interests)? I mean, isn’t that what we’re supposed to be fighting under Patrick? (And at least with the current Gov, his interest in resort casinos wasn’t driven by his campaign coffers.)

Honestly, someone should run against him as Treasurer and put us out of our misery. And please, Tim, feel free to vacate that office and run for Governor where you are sure to be crushed by the Patrick juggernaut. The only thing I’m worried about with Cahill is his big-money donors and their ability to pay Cahill back for his largess while Treasurer. Which won’t sit well with voters, if they know about it.

I mean, is this guy for real?

Waiting for the Spinners’ RFP

by at 7:51 am.

Any time now, Lowell will issue its revised Request for Proposal (RFP) for the LeLacheur Park lease. As of today, nothing has been posted on the City’s web site page listing the IFB and RFP Solicitations.

The future of the Spinners in the City of Lowell will be determined about 45 days after the RFP is issued. Although we do not know all of the details, it is safe to say, the period of the lease will be extended from the 5 years in the original RFP to 10 years.

I am not as pessimistic as Dick at richardhowe.com, but I am concerned. As Dick stated, “the Spinners have disclosed how much they’re willing to pay,” that is $150,000/year in rent plus $50,000 annually to the capital fund. The City has a different idea.

The message passed on to the Sun by City Councilors friendly to the newspaper indicate that “city councilors are looking for a lot more money, in the vicinity of $250,000 a year, with an escalator clause tied to annual economic activity, and a ticket surcharge.” From what I have read and heard on the radio, it appears that the City Manager and the majority of the City Council are on the same page. So here we are; a difference of $50,000 plus an adjustment rate for inflation and a ticket surcharge.

The Spinners have a lot of supporters, none more than Ted Panos of WCAP and the Sun Blog. A couple of weeks ago, he drilled City Manager Bernie Lynch during the latter’s weekly appearance on the radio. Ted paints a not-so-pretty picture of LeLacheur without the Spinners “The pristine ballpark by the river gradually falls into a state of disrepair because the Red Sox, who control the territorial rights, make sure no professional team is there to pour hundreds of thousands into maintaining it. Oh, and in this time of budget uncertainty, those guaranteed $200,000 dollars each year for 10-years never find their way into Lowell’s financial coffers.”

Although I fully understand the Councilors point that the City wants their “fair” share; but with the Spinners there is an added advantage that cannot easily be quantified with a dollar value. As someone told me last week, the Spinners are a Lowell institution. We simply cannot look at this as a business proposition.

I am optimistic that in 45 days or so, the City and the Spinners will come to a mutually beneficial contract; otherwise it will be a lose, lose proposition.

I do not want that park to be empty next year but I do not want the City to be burden in 4-5 years with a contract that is harmful to the City. So I wish the City Council good luck in making the right decision.

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